Jan: The American And The Brit
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Melbourne, etc.
I’m from Detroit, Michigan and I moved to Melbourne in 2006 on a temporary visa and then got my permanent residency in 2010.
Australia was always supposed to be a temporary thing and we would eventually move on to another place, probably back to London where my husband is from but we love it here and we find living here so easy. So easy, in fact that one of my goals for 2013 is to get my citizenship.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging pretty much as soon as I moved here as a way to for my friends and family back in America know what’s going on. It’s now become sort of an outlet for everything.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I don’t know if I have a favorite entry. They’re all my favorites while I’m writing them and then rereading them I think “what the hell must they think of me.” I suppose I like my supporting cast page because it’s where I talk about my Australian family. They keep me sane.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Melbourne differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
The good: I’m certainly healthier and think more about recycling and the environment. Being from the “Motor City”, I drove everywhere and here I don’t have a car. I haven’t driven in 7 years. In fact, I’m afraid to drive…I think I’ve forgotten. Also the healthcare is better. Private is more affordable, and even without it, I wouldn’t need to worry about getting sick. I’ve also slowed down my pace and learned to relax a bit. I think I enjoy life more.
The bad: I miss my family more than ever. They are so far away. Shopping here isn’t as good as in America and everything is super expensive. But salaries are better here so I guess that makes up for it.
I didn’t really experience culture shock – except I kept looking in the wrong direction for oncoming traffic. I found Australia to be the same as America in a lot of ways.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Melbourne? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I would like to think I was fully prepared. I did a lot of research and knew people here and so asked a lot of questions. I also had a job and a place to live waiting for me so I didn’t need to stress about that and was able to focus more on the living aspect.
I don’t think there was anything I would change except I would’ve liked a couple weeks to settle in before starting my new job. I only had two days!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Most of my funny experiences aren’t because I’m an expat but because I’m clumsy and fall down a lot much to the humor of everyone around me. One my first weeks here I did think a car backfiring was gunshots and hid behind a bush. “You’re not in Detroit” said one of my friends.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Melbourne?
- Learn about different coffees here so you don’t look like an idiot trying to order one (like me my first week)… flat white, long black, etc.
- Do lots of research before arriving so you don’t feel so overwhelmed. Don’t try to find a permanent place to live until you’ve spent a little bit of time here. Learn about the different parts of Melbourne to give yourself an idea of where you’d like to live. I think that north of the river has a totally different vibe than south of the river. L
- Look into the health system and whether you need or should consider private health insurance. Some visas require it.
How is the expat community in Melbourne? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is a huge expat community in Melbourne … I think. Funnily enough, all the like-minded people I’ve met are Australian or kiwi. If I hear an American accent on a tram then I feel like I should reach out to them (especially if they look like tourists) but I don’t want them to think I’m a psycho stalker.
How would you summarize your expat life in Melbourne in a single, catchy sentence?
A beautiful adventure.